President Obama visits Los Angeles Thursday for what is expected to be a record-setting $40,000-per-person fundraiser at the Studio City home of George Clooney. The event will undoubtedly create traffic hassles but has taken on a new aura of excitement after the president came out in support of same-sex marriage.
About 150 people will attend, and sources say the event could generate $6 million from donors and almost $9 million more from an online contest in which supporters could win tickets to the dinner. The campaign has not confirmed the total take, but even if it falls short of that it is believed that the event will be a record setter.
An event that could have been punctuated by awkward moments will instead have a more jubilant atmosphere following Obama’s Wednesday announcement that he favors gay nuptials. Although the fundraiser had no trouble selling out, according to organizers, it is designed to give donors some face time with the President, and it was possible that he would have been pressed on his stance on gay unions during the event. Clooney was among the stars who performed in a March reading of Dustin Lance Black’s “8,” that served as a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.Chad Griffin, the board chairman of AFER who next month will become president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, “Excitement, enthusiasm, I think, is an understatement.”
“What he said today changed lives,” Griffin said. “The fact that he spoke in such personal human terms sends a tremendous message to LGBT people across the country.” He added, “For LGBT people who have never heard a president of the United States talk about his support for gay marriage, that is historic and important and has advanced the lives of Americans in a major way.”
On “Meet the Press” this week, Vice President Joseph Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage, elevating the issue to the forefront as reporters questioned White House officials on Obama’s more ambiguous stance that his position was “evolving.” The Obama administration cancelled the regular midday press briefing, as Obama sat down for an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts to announce that his position had changed to support.
Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who has questioned why gay donors support candidates who continue to fall short of embracing full equality, said he “was incredibly moved by the President taking such a strong position at this point in his presidency.”
“This is day that gay and lesbian people will look back on forever as perhaps one of the greatest moments in our movement,” Black said, adding that “as unenthusiastic as I was two weeks ago, I am equally if not more enthusiastic today.”
Obama’s announcement could help galvanize supporters, as the campaign tries to recapture some of the enthusiasm of the president’s 2008 campaign. According to a story in the online site Buzzfeed, the campaign reaped about $1 million in the first 90 minutes after the news broke.
Ricky Martin is hosting a fundraiser in New York on Monday that is expected to draw heavily from the LGBT community. Obama has another fundraiser, aimed at gay and lesbian donors in Los Angeles, scheduled for June 6. One of the co-chairs, attorney Dana Perlman, told Variety before Obama made his announcement that even though there was pressure on the president, fundraising for the event had increased following Biden’s “Meet the Press” appearance.
The exact logistical details are being kept secret, but Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian sent a letter to residents in the area warning of road closures in the vicinity of Fryman Canyon. Residents near Fryman Canyon are being warned that local access will be “virtually sealed off” from 8-10 p.m., and residents will need to show ID.
Obama is expected to land at LAX about 6 p.m. and then will fly by helicopter to a landing site in West Los Angeles — in the past it has been at Rancho Park. He’ll then travel by motorcade to Clooney’s home. He’ll stay overnight in Beverly Hills before leaving L.A. the next morning.